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Evacuations begin as Typhoon Mangkhut approaches the Philippines

Typhoon has a rain band 900 km wide and could bring heavy rains that could set off landslides and flash floods.

Typhoon Mangkhut, the most powerful typhoon of the season, is closing in on northern Philippines, prompting thousands to evacuate ahead of heavy rains and fierce winds that are set to strike over the weekend.

The typhoon has already blasted through the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, and is speeding across the Pacific with winds that can gust as high as 255 kmph.

With a massive rain band 900 km wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the storm could bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods, state forecaster Meno Mendoza said.

Teams from the Philippine Red Cross were placed on high alert in northern Luzon, where the storm is expected to make landfall on Saturday morning. 

"We're worried for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm, including those who have been displaced several times due to the monsoon rains last July and August," Senator Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, said on Wednesday.

"We are preparing our emergency assets and relief items. Our staff and volunteers are on high alert for possible deployment."

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba said that northern coastal and island villages in the typhoon's projected path will begin evacuating residents on Thursday. 

He said classes will be suspended and offices, except those involved in rescue and relief work, were advised to close on Friday.

The storm strengthened rapidly and reached the equivalent of category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, it is expected to weaken to category 4 before it reaches Hong Kong and Macau. 

Mangkhut is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines, which is hit by about 20 annually and is considered one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.

The economic toll of Typhoon Haiyan

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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